There’s an old Zen story about a scholar who visited a famous Zen master to inquire into the meaning of zen. The scholar asked question after question but was so full of his own ideas that he rarely gave the master an opportunity to answer.

After about an hour of this one-sided dialogue, the master asked the scholar if he wanted a cup of tea. When the scholar held out his cup, the master filled it but just kept pouring.

“Enough,” the scholar cried out. “The cup is full. It won’t hold anymore.”

“Yes,” replied the zen master. “and so is your mind. You can’t learn Zen until you empty your cup.”

– Author Unknown –


What to look for when choosing a Spiritual Mentor

In the Buddhist philosophy/teaching/text – Mahayanasutralamkara – Maitreya outlines these 10 qualities of what we should look for in our Spiritual Mentors.

  1. Pure ethical discipline. Our teachers set an example for us. Because we need to modify our unruly actions of body, speech, and mind, it’s wise for us to choose teachers who have done so. They will instruct us how to improve ourselves and will be good examples for us to follow.
  2. Experience in Meditative concentration.
  3. Deep understanding of the teachings of wisdom. These first three qualities show that someone is well trained in the three higher trainings that lead to liberation – ethical discipline, concentration, and wisdom.
  4. More knowledge and a deeper realization of the subject to be taught than we have.
  5. Enthusiastic perseverance to teach and guide their students. If we choose a person who doesnt enjoy teaching or is reluctant to guide others, we won’t be able to learn very much.
  6. Extensive learning from competent teachers. We want to learn from those who know the scriptures well and will teach according to them. People who make up there own teachings or misunderstand the Buddha’s teachings can’t show us the path to enlightenment.
  7. Correct conceptual understanding or direct meditative insight into emptiness.
  8. Skill to articulate the dharma (dharma in Buddhism refers to ‘Cosmic law & order’) clearly so we’ll understand it correctly.
  9. Motivation of loving-kindness and compassion. This is a very important point. We can’t trust someone who teaches in order to receive offerings, respect, or a large following. There is a danger that we’ll be led astray by such a person, thereby wasting our lives and potentially engaging in negative activities. Therefore, it’s extremely important to select as our masters people who have a pure and genuine wish to benefit their students and lead them on the path of enlightenment.
  10. Patience and willingness to teach people of all levels of intelligence. We aren’t perfect and will make mistakes because of our afflictions of anger and attachment. We need teachers who won’t abandon us but will instead be patient and forgive us. In addition, we want teachers who won’t be discouraged when we don’t understand what they teach.